These free audio resources cover the foundational practices of Heart-Based Mindfulness. Learn how to create a foundation for deep self-care, resilience and wellbeing in day to day life.
Stopping and Resting
Stopping means not running anymore, to be mindful of what is happening in the here and the now. Mindfulness allows you to be in the here and the now, with body and mind united. In our daily lives, often our body is here, but our mind is in the past or the future, caught in our projects, fear, or anger. Mindfulness helps bring the mind back to the body, and when you do that you become present in the here and the now. Mindfulness is the energy that helps you to be fully present. When you are present, with your mind and body together, you become more alive. Mindfulness is that energy that helps you be alive and present.
The obstacles to Stopping and Resting: habit energy
How often do you find yourself rushing through a task when you actually have plenty of time?
Habit energy it’s that potent force that pushes us through life. It propels us to rush through most of our activities, in order to get to the next one, often when there’s no rush at all.
The force is so unwavering because we tend to be unaware of it and often feel powerless to change it. Habit energies are often compulsive, automatic, repetitive and unconscious.
Examples: if you have a free moment you have the need to keep checking your mobile phone. When you see someone reach for their mobile you have this urge to then do the same. Often when you are with a group of friends, it takes only one person to reach for their mobile that the next minute everyone finds themselves in front of their screens.
Another example is how the time waiting for the red traffic light to change feels unbearably long. Actually, the longest you would ever sit at a red light is one and half to two minutes! Hardly an eternity. Yet it’s our habit energy that makes it feel like that. We just want to push forward, and reach our goal without stopping. The red light feels like this huge obstacle, but the obstacle is that urge to keep moving.
When you are in a long queue in the supermarket, you fidget, feel restless or anxious, or you start to think about all the things you need to do. Maybe feeling irritated or impatient with the people in front of you. The same when we are in a traffic jam, suddenly behind the steering wheel we become Attila de Hun, ready to slash through the obstacles in our path and plough forward.
Further examples of very common habitual patters are: excessive thinking (non-stop mental radio). Mental proliferation (you start with one thought and that can lead to many others). The tendency to “chew” over the same subject over and over again. Comparison (we keep comparing ourselves to others) judgement and blame (we judge and blame ourselves and others) to name a few.
We all suffer from habitual tendencies. The important thing is to bring patience and kindness to our relationship with them and as we continue practising mindfulness these habits begin to change. Based on mindfulness we cultivate new ones that are much more beneficial to us and others.
How to practice stopping
Stop, look and Listen
Stop, press thepause button for a moment. Stop whatever actions you’re engaged in for 1 or 2 minutes. Take a deep breath, connect fully with your body and rest there for a moment.
Look around you. Arrive into the present moment by becoming aware of your immediate environment.
Listen to what’s going on in your body and state of being. enjoy three mindful breaths right in this moment.
Practice Mindfulness of breathing.
Take a deeper in and out breath. Become fully aware of the in-breath and how it feels, and aware of the out-breath. Relaxing and letting go of any tension in your body as you breathe mindfully. Anchoring your attention on the breath helps your mind become connected to the present moment.
As you become aware of the present moment you realise how much of your thinking process is not connected to what is happening right now, in this moment. This is the mind that will keep making you busy, worried, anxious.
Grounding your awareness in the breath and in the body offers you a safe place to rest and feel grounded.
Focus your attention on what is pleasant
We all get so lost in our worries, anxieties and with what is not going well. In your own mind, what do you usually think about at the end of the day? The fifty things that went right, or the one that went wrong? Such as the driver who cut you off in traffic, or the one thing on your To Do list that didn’t get done . . .
In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.
This creates a constant feeling of dissatisfaction and negativity.
“Change the peg or the disk” introduce a different story to your mind, a positive one. Open your eyes and see that in fact there are wonderful things around you. The sky, a beautiful park, children playing. Your eyes and heart are in good condition. You have a job, a family, people that are close to you and love you. There are, in fact, so many positive things in us and around us. Open you heart and mind to these positive things and you will feel happier, nourished and lighter.
What is the best posture for sitting in mindfulness
We could say that “the best meditation posture” doesn’t exist. Finding your “best” meditation posture is an art. It takes time (not necessary effort) and its very related to how you approach life. So, your sitting experience is a very good metaphor for how you are living your life. There is no judgement in this statement, simply an acknowledgment that whatever you see and experience in your sitting is what you are experiencing in life and the sitting is simply bringing this to your awareness more clearly.
Sitting in mindfulness offers so many benefits: the consolidation of stillness and awareness. The possibility for the qualities of stopping to become much deeper and more established. More clarity, as you begin to see diverse aspects of your life parade in front of your mind’s eye (this can, at times, be very entertaining or disheartening)
The truth is that while you sit you are not very far from yourself. There you are, with you whole story. So, kindness, love, care, patience and gentle perseverance are qualities called forth from your heart in order for you to find your real best posture.
Five postures for sitting in mindfulness
In this position, your feet are rested firmly on the ground in proper alignment with your hips and knees. You can also place a cushion under your feet, if this helps you feel more comfortable and sit more stability.
It helps if your thighs are parallel to the floor. It’s best not to lean backwards on the chair but to keep your back upright. What can be helpful is to place a blanket or pillow, or cushion in the small of your back, so this supports your upright-ness and it’s both supportive and restful.
Make sure your clothes are not too tight. Allow space around your belly so it can relax and the breath can move more freely as to include the whole expansion of the lungs and diaphragm. The chest is open and shoulders are slightly rolled back. Allow your arms to find a restful position, with your hands placed on your thighs, knees or one hand placed on top of the other in the “meditation mudra position”
Your head should sit comfortably on your shoulders, with the chin slightly “tucked in” allowing the lengthening of your spine.
Relax your jaw, don’t clench your teeth, relax your tongue, with lips slightly touching. Relax any muscle in your face that feels tense: around your mouth, cheeks, forehead and temples.
You can close your eyes (for better concentration and focus) or have them slightly open (to allow for the stimulation of the light) Eyes can be open to avoid sleepiness but paying attention to not get distracted by what you see.
This is a good position for those who find it hard to sit cross-legged and its gentler on the knees. You can use a meditation bench or meditation stool as a prop. Alternatively, you could straddle a meditation cushion. An important thing to pay attention to, in this position, is the height of your meditation bench, or stool. Make sure your calves and knees don’t get compressed under the weight of your body. Having enough space between your knees and calves will help the blood circulation in your legs. You will need to find out what height works best for you. Another important point of reference is your pelvis. It helps if its slightly tilted forward so you sit with a straight spine. For the rest of the posture, the same principles apply as in sitting on a chair (belly and breathing, chest, shoulders, arms and position of hands, etc.)
Seated on the Floor Position
This is a simple seated position, with your legs crossed in front. It is like the Burmese pose (described below), with the use of meditation cushion to sit on. Your knees are wide and your shins are crossed. This is not the most stable of positions and may make meditating for longer than 15 or 20 minutes not very comfortable. Some alternatives, like specially designed meditation chairs that support your body on the floor, can be very helpful. There are crescent shaped meditation cushions that help by supporting more leg surface as you sit cross legged. they also help in keeping your back straight. allow for the pelvis to tilt forward which helps with your lower back and general posture. For the rest of the posture, the same principles apply as in sitting on a chair (belly and breathing, chest, shoulders, arms and position of hands, etc.)
This posture involves laying your legs bent and flat on the floor in front of you, with legs folded rather than crossed. One heel is on the inside of the opposite thigh, and your other heel sits in front of the opposite foot, ankle, or calf. It’s best if the sides of your knees touch the ground. If this is difficult, you can add a cushion, pillow, bolster or blanket under one or each of your knees to support them. For this posture, a meditation cushion is most useful, making sure that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. For this find a cushion that gives you more height under you buttocks. Having the pelvis slightly tilted forward is another important aspect in this posture. This gives more spaciousness in your belly and respects the natural curvature of your lower back. The rest of the instructions in the previous postures apply to this posture, like the straight spine, etc.
Half or Quarter Lotus Position
The half lotus involves only one foot resting on the opposite thigh while the other leg is folded underneath and rest beneath the knee or thigh. The quarter lotus has both legs crossed but with each foot resting under the opposite thigh or knee. Same observations as in previous postures apply to knees, pelvis, and spine.
It is possible to practice mindfulness while we travel back and forth from our home to our workplace. This requires a different approach and relationship to our habitual ways of coping with this reality of daily life, which often can be trying, challenging and stressful.
Here we suggest some ways to integrate your practice of mindfulness while commuting. There are many ways to do this and you can create your own approach and even practices. Then the time dedicated to commute can become a meaningful and pleasant aspect of your life.
Waiting on the platform for the train
We may experience, in our daily commute, a certain concern lurking in the back of our minds. Wondering if the trains will be running on time. Maybe an unforeseeable situation could boycott our trip and generate unexpected stress. There are many unpredictable situations that could happen during our commute. By practicing mindfulness, we can reduce stress and save a lot of mental and emotional energy.
As we are waiting for our train to arrive, we can establish ourselves in the present moment, and bring our awareness to our body or breathing. Making sure that our attention doesn’t get completely dispersed or lost in what’s going on around us. We can practice standing (audio) or walking in mindfulness (audio). If we notice our body is tensing up, we can relax. An attitude of kindness, flexibility, and acceptance towards the whole experience can make a big difference in how we experience the commute.
Queuing or waiting for the bus
We try not to get caught up in our habitual reactions or patterns while we wait for the bus to arrive. For example: reaching for our mobile to distract ourselves. As we don’t reach for distraction, we notice our patterns of thinking. The tendency to worry if the bus will come late, or at all, or fret about arriving late for work. Instead, we can use this time to do slow walking in mindfulness (audio). Connecting with each footstep as you walk back and forth. Every footstep touches the ground with softness. This brings a sensation of light concentration and awareness, that feels uplifting. It is, in fact, a very good use of our time. You generate qualities (focused awareness, lightness, and groundedness) that will be helpful later when you start work.
We can practice “standing in mindfulness”. Bringing your attention to the whole length of your posture as you stand, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. This will already introduce a small but important change.
You can also practice paying attention to the immediate environment around you. Notice the vegetation. look at the sky, or the buildings nearby. Observe the features of your immediate environment with curiosity. Then the waiting will become an event in itself, that will feel worth experiencing, instead of avoiding.
Practicing sitting in mindfulness on public transport
It’s a common sight to see many of us in our daily commute spending most of the journey staring at a screen. We’re totally unaware of the journey and the people with whom we are sharing the trip. At times we pass by beautiful landscapes the train or bus is taking us on, but we don’t notice them. Our existence in that moment is reduced to the content and size of the screen.
In the underground we notice many people catching up with their sleep or simply being exhausted by their long hours of work. We can use the time while seated in any of these modes of transport to practice sitting in mindfulness. No one will notice as we will look like just another tired passenger trying to catch up on sleep.
We can close our eyes, bring awareness to our posture and bring our mind to rest on our breathing. We can do a simple body awareness practice or body scan or simply rest in a soft and general awareness of what’s happening around us. We can use this time we have to centre ourselves as we maintain an inner “silent focused awareness”
In this way, we gather much of our mental energy and direct it towards feeling connected, stable and focused. The time used in commuting is a time used to rest, restore or focus our inner resources.
We might think that our happiness is not within our control, that it is dictated by our situation in life and things that happen to us.
Of couse, these things do affect our happiness, as do biological factors, but there are mindfulness practices and exercises that can allow us to generate happiness and boost our postive emotions.
This may seem self-indulgent, but learning how to focus on happiness will allow us to be of much more use to those around us in need.
We all experience difficulty, it is not something we can get rid of. Rather than spending our energy resisting all the difficulties in our life, there are ways we can move towards them with kindness and curiosity.
Taking this approach to difficulty not only means that we can handle challenging situations much better but also use these situations for opportunities for growth and development.
Are we fully experiencing a sense of connection in our lives? What causes disconnection? How can we build a bridge between disconnection and connection?
These practices give us space to start to explore more about how we relare to ourselves, to each other and to the wider world around us.